CHRISTMAS 2021: LETTER FROM THE MANSE
One of the best things about Christmastime is enjoying (and sometimes promoting) the water-tight beliefs that children hold regarding the festive season. Not least is the sure faith they have in a man with a white beard and red suit who will somehow manage to get down their chimney in the dead of night and leave presents on the living room floor. Parents can encourage this belief and often add their own elaborations for more selfish and grown-up purposes, like saying to an innocent child, “As well as leaving Santa a biscuit on the mantelpiece and his reindeer a carrot, why not leave him a glass of whisky and some gin to take home to Mrs Santa?” There is no doubt, that when children begin to grow up and questions are asked and suspicions surrounding the event arise,, something of the special magic is lost for everyone of all age groups, but the process can also work the other way around. In my last parish, I heard an account of a little boy who, early one Saturday morning with his parents still tightly tucked up in bed, decided to go downstairs to the living room. He was surprised to encounter a stranger there. “What’s your name?” asked the stranger. “I am Stephen” said the wee lad, “and I am three. What’s your name?” At this, the visitor paused, smiled and said, “My name is Wee Willie Winkie and I am thirty-two!” Stephen bolted up the stairs to wake his parents and tell them the good news, “Mum! Dad! Wee Willie Winkie is downstairs!” This was met with only a few groans and a bleary-eyed but insistent request to go back to bed.
When the adults of the house finally got up later that morning and went downstairs, the reason for Wee Willie Winkie’s visit was all too clear. Their lovely flat screen TV, their Bang and Olufsen sound system and Stephen’s mum’s favourite cushions had all disappeared. Their fairy-tale character turned out to be a real-life burglar. If only the adults had listened to their child and shared in his innocent belief system, a large insurance claim could have been easily avoided.
As I write this at the end of October, already the news about Christmas sounds less than wonderful. Turkeys are being prematurely purchased and put into the freezer “just in case”, parts to construct kids’ bikes are still languishing in North Korea, when they should be in a British factory getting ready for the big day, and the public is being warned that shortages of all kinds may well result in a disappointing festive time for everyone. Our adult cynicism has started even earlier than usual this year.
Perhaps we could all take a lesson from the mind-set of a three-year-old and start believing that this day could herald the beginnings of a new world. The homeless infant in the manger brings Light and Life to our darkness which is slowly adapting to and recovering from a terrible pandemic. With Christ’s birth has come the promise of peace on earth, a better way to live and the means of achieving justice for all of humanity. That angel’s song sounds fanciful to our hardened, adult minds, but we ignore it at our great peril. We need to switch off the cynicism and for once – just listen and believe. The child spotted early one morning in the stable really is Immanuel and his identity means that God is indeed, truly with us.
Can I wish you all a very joyful Christmas and a happier New Year?
(Rev) Stan October 2021
Slowly and steadily, the numbers of parishioners attending church have been increasing as more and more folk gain confidence in adapting to our post-Covid world. We are currently alternating Sunday Services between the Kirk of St. Bride, Abernethy and Arngask Church in Glenfarg with services starting at 10.00am. In church, we are still sitting one metre apart and face masks are worn during the service including when we sing. Because we serve tea and coffee after each service, it has been necessary to continue to collect Trace and Protect details from worshippers. As I write this, the incidence of Covid-19 is particularly high in our parish, although this will no doubt improve. Even so, the precautions we take, although an inconvenience, are regarded as necessary and sensible. The good news is that the Church Hall in Glenfarg and the Session House in Abernethy are now open and can be hired by user groups in the community once more.
After much consideration by the Kirk Session, special church services for Christmas have necessarily been restricted again this year. We hope, however, to hold the following:
Sunday 19th December at 10.00am: Arngask - Service of Lessons and Carols followed by mince pies and mulled wine.
Friday 24th December at 7.00pm: Abernethy - Christmas Eve Service with Nativity Play.
Sunday 26th December at 10.00am: Abernethy - Family Boxing Day Service.
Sunday 2nd January 2022 at 10.00am: Arngask - First Service of the New Year.
The proceeds from our special collections at our Christmas services, this year, will go to support the work of PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Service).
I hope that you might be able to join us for some (or all) of our special Christmas Services this year. It would be great to see you!
Session Clerk Oct 2021